By Cliff Foster
Communication Design Program Coordinator Lisa M. Abendroth is helping put MSU Denver on the map in the public interest design movement, a growing effort among people who design buildings, homes, tools, graphics and more to address a humanitarian, educational or socially relevant requirement in their projects.
Abendroth is a founding member of the SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) Network, which outlines the process and principles of designing for marginalized communities using a triple bottom line approach. Her involvement and research through SEED has led to the University’s selection as the host for a Public Interest Design Institute where top design practitioners will demonstrate how to implement the SEED methodology in a variety of disciplines.
The institute will be held April 11-12 and is intended as an intimate educational venue with roughly 65 attendees. The University is collaborating with the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado Denver, which broadens the audience beyond communication and industrial designers. In hosting the institute, MSU Denver joins Harvard, Yale and the University of Washington, among others, where SEED training has been offered.
“I couldn’t think of a better opportunity or more appropriate venue,” Abendroth says of MSU Denver’s host role. “This is important to the trajectory, the future of the disciplines of design, and for MSU Denver to be a part of that, to be a guiding spirit and a facilitator in that conversation…our involvement makes us a national player in this movement.”
Abendroth defines public interest design this way: “It is a practice that is pursued from the ground up through community engagement. Oftentimes traditionally underserved by design, community members, stakeholders and/or audience members are directly involved in the design process as participants and drive the imperative for a design solution.”
One example of public interest design is Abendroth’s 2011 fall semester course for communication design students that worked with the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton to create the “blind spot” campaign. The students designed business cards, postcards, posters and other elements to promote awareness about accessibility in businesses and public spaces.
Abendroth also notes that public interest design is consistent with the strategic themes and objectives of A Time of Transformation, the 2012-17 Strategic Plan.
“A lot of this ties into the strategic mission of the University—working locally, serving the underserved, giving voice to the community, creating a visible pathway for accessible and impactful design solutions,” she says.
For registration information on the Public Design Institute, click here.
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